Until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of Bakau. If you had asked me where it was I would have guessed at one of the Russian states – somehow the name just has that ring to it, but in fact it’s in the Gambia on the west coast of Africa. Bakau is part of the Kombos a sort of conglomeration of small towns near Banjul – in fact it’s where most of the tourists stay when they visit the Gambia. The reason I’m interested in Bakau is that I’ve just applied for a placement there as an “Agricultural Extensionist”. This is a post with the Ministry of Agriculture and my role will be to help support technical and vocational training to better enable staff share their skills and knowledge with farmers and in particular the youth, who in Gambia make up about 60% of the poor. This training could include encouraging them to grow improved crop varieties, helping to promote skills like soil fertility maintenance and water management, and assisting them in finding better markets for their produce.
Of course my application may yet be refused, and having just completed my VSO Placement Analysis Form in which I’m required to match my qualifications, skills and experience to the criteria specified by the employer, I’ve found myself lacking in one or two areas which I would consider essential. However it seems that it is very rare to find a volunteer who matches exactly, and apparently employers need to be flexible about their requirements – the job description can sometimes be changed to reflect the capabilities of the applicant. No doubt I’ll soon find out how flexible the Gambian Minister of Agriculture
(Mr Solomon Owens – but of course you knew that didn’t you?) is prepared to be!